History buffs and researchers will soon be able to look through old books, news articles and photographs in the Queens Borough Public Library’s archives from their own computers as the library is in the process of digitizing their collection.
Thousands of documents and images in Queens Library’s Long Island Division dating back to the 1800s will be scanned and published online in order to be accessed by Internet users all over the world. To mark the effort, the library also announced that it is renaming the Long Island Division as The Archives at Queens Library, a title which the organization stated “better reflect[s] the true scope of the collections.”
For years, students, historians and others seeking to learn more about Queens’ past have had to travel to the Central library in Jamaica to browse the Long Island Division’s trove of primary documents depicting life in Queens County as well as Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Queens Library has assembled a Digital Assets Team to organize, scan, archive and digitize the collection for publication on the Internet. John Hyslop, digital asset manager for QBPL, observed that while the task before them is great, there are “hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary materials documenting Queens’ social, economic, political and physical history that historians, students and genealogists from around the world want to see.”
“I am very excited because we will be giving our customers what they want: Internet access to the library’s unique and valuable documentation of Queens and Long Island history, which they can see in their homes, schools or offices,” said Hyslop.
According to Queens Library, the first archive to be digitized is the Hal B. Fullerton Photographs, a collection of 399 images taken between 1880 and 1910 which show various scenes around Long Island, including old Long Island Rail Road cars and stations, original automobiles and car races. It is anticipated that the collection will be published online later this year.
Next, the Digital Assets Team will tackle the Queens Library’s own collection of more than 4,300 photographs depicting life in Queens County between 1880 and 1996. The collection includes images of the first Flushing library branch housed in a bungalow at the corner of Main Street and Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, where the more modern, multi-story branch now sits.
Also included in the library’s collection are images of notable politi- cal figures in Queens and New York over the years. One photograph shows then-Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicating the first book bus.
Images provided by the Queens Borough President’s office will also be digitized in the weeks to come, the library noted. The borough president’s collection includes 1,916 images taken between 1898 and 1958, capturing a wide variety of events from major storms to commercial development.
The library also announced that it will digitize documents housed at the Langston Hughes library in Corona as well as music scores at the Central Library.
Among the other materials to be scanned are documents belonging to Wilson and Jane Rantus, an African- American couple who resided in Jamaica between 1834 and 1883. The collection, which contains receipts, bills and letters gathered by the couple over the years, are known to be the only records for an African- American family living on Long Island during that period of time.
For more information on the Queens Library’s archival efforts, visit www.queenslibrary.org.